Erin Vander Stelt

Candidate for Master's Degree 
Graduate Program in Plant Biology and Conservation 
Northwestern University
and Chicago Botanic Garden

Research Interests:  Rare and/or endangered species, Restoration ecology, conservation genetics

Current Research


Erin in the prairie

Isoëtes butleri comparison to thumb size

A small set of I. butleri growing in a wetland depression

Surveying I. butleri population sizes in the dolomite prairie




I am currently researching the ecology and genetics of Isoëtes butleri, an endangered lycopod (fern ally) in Illinois.  Isoëtes butleri has exhibited recent population declines, and managers are interested what factors influence population size.  My work with I. butleri includes a study of three ecological factors that may influence population size.  First, I will use PRS soil probes to determine if any notable differences occur in the soil nutrient levels within and outside populations to see if nutrients determine population boundaries.  Second, competition from the community may also influence population boundaries, so I will analyze the vegetation structure within and outside the populations to measure any notable differences in community.  Finally, managers have noted increasing dead vegetation accumulation at many of the population sites due to fire suppression, which could be reducing emergence and persistence of individuals.  I have removed this plant litter from some individuals in one of the populations and will determine if any differences occur between plants emerging in treatment and control plots.  My work with I. butleri also includes an investigation of population differentiation and inbreeding within the populations.  I have collected samples from 300 individuals, and I will use microsatellite DNA markers to compare gene flow and inbreeding in Illinois populations.  My goal is to discover if any of these factors influence population size or boundaries and use any data to inform management procedures in the areas I. butleri inhabits.  This small lycopod may be an important key to understanding wetland community and nutrient change as well as increase understanding of the ecology and genetics of rare and endangered species.



2011  Shaw Fellowship for Plant Biology and Conservation

2012  Plant Biology and Conservation Research Award



My Wikipedia page on Isoëtes butleri (coming soon)

USDA Plants link





May 8, 2013